Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ford Smart Mobility: PARC Forum, 06/25/2015



Several months back, I went to the PARC Forum on Ford, the automobile and mobility company as they want us to call them. Dr Ken Washington gave an excellent talk, that was very different from what I was expecting.

I went expecting to hear about mobility, as in services through your mobile phone, but it was all about how people will commute and go to places in the next decades. And how Ford is hoping to make sure that it is still relevant in those decades.

Washington (vice-president of Research and Advanced Engineering at the Ford Motor Company)
started on what he called "threats to freedom of mobility",  which were actually threats to Ford's business model:
1. global urbanization
2. global middle class growth
3. air quality and other health risks
4. changing customer's attitudes (to car ownership in particular, millenials and later gens don't care for cars)

He talked about the research in the newer lab they have in Palo Alto (3200 Hill View), where they started around a year ago with some experiments on gauging customers pain points and interests.

These are apparently now transitioning to products and he described 5 of them.
1. Go!drive: city driving on demand, where you pay by the minute, an electric vehicle with designated and guaranteed parking places. They're testing it in London.
2. peer-2-peer car sharing, I think the name of the product is easyCarClub, they're launching in Chicago/London/Washington/San Francisco, partnership with a SF start-up, but I didn't catch their name.
3. they have been collecting data on bikes and cyclists since 2012
4. out of the experiment in 3, they're launching eBike, which integrates electric bikes and cars/trucks. 
Three modalities: modeMe ebike, modePro ebike and  modeFlex ebike (which he says is not launched yet, PARC heard it first). ModePro and modeFlex are sold with a transit van Connect. all are electric bikes, where you plug in your cell phone and that navigates you, so there are cell phones involved too, but they're not central.
5. Finally they're also getting on the business of finding parking places in big urban centers via Parking spotter, which detects empy parking slots using sensors in your car and tells other people about them, using the cloud. they have several partnerships in the Valley already, but he did not mention who.

Summarizing: Ford smart mobility focus on flexible use and ownership, multimodal styles of transportation for urban solutions mobility; car sharing/fractional  ownership/ pay-as-you-go.

Because with 9 billion people in the planet in 2050, 70% living in the big cities, (by 2030 they're predicting 41 mega-cities with more than 10 million people), all needing to go the same places and wanting to park, they will need help.

Q&A addressed  expected issues: fuel price, mass transportation, different contexts (Europe vs US vs China). I did not managed to ask my question about the voice interaction of humans and cars, as there were too many other people asking questions. But it was nice to see old friends like Johan de Kleer, Scott Elrod and Teresa Lunt.

1 comment:

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